This Saturday June 18, Thakeham Morris will be celebrating their 25th birthday at Thakeham Village Day.
The Morris side was set up by Gillian Bird, with Mike Bird as musician, for Village Day in June 1991. It had been suggested that morris dancing would be a good entertainment and arena event, so Gillian ‘persuaded’ several local ‘young men’ to volunteer, and trained them from scratch to morris dance.
It was supposed to be a one-off performance, but was enthusiastically received by the audience. Several dancers were keen to continue, and others from the village were persuaded to join, and so Gillians Morris Thakeham was born. Weekly practice in the Village Hall started in Autumn 1991, and the next summer was Gillians Morris first full season of dancing. Later, the side changed its name to Thakeham Morris, and Gillian Bird composed some Thakeham dances for the side, with local names such as Thakeham Oak, Abingworth, and Blue Idol. In younger days, the morris side would start the Morris Dancing year on May 1 at Chantry Post on the Downs at dawn. Other venues included Thakeham and Storrington Village Days, the Christchurch Festival, and even a long weekend in Cherbourg. Thakeham Morris also dance each year at the Broadwood Day of Dance in Horsham. During the summer, various neighbouring hostelries are visited from time to time for dancing and music (and some drinking!), occasionally with other Morris sides. Over the years, various people have joined or retired, and age and injuries have reduced the numbers to only a handful, but two of the original dancers are still there. Gillian and Mike Bird have now moved away to Hampshire, but the morris side is just about surviving. It is still very much a local side: six are from Thakeham Parish including Tim on the melodeon, and two are from neighbouring Storrington.
The future is uncertain, but at the moment Thakeham Morris is dancing on.